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virus fears Bishops cast doubt over communions and confirmations happening in 2021

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Bishop Denis Nulty. Photo: Arthur Carron

Bishop Denis Nulty. Photo: Arthur Carron

Bishop Denis Nulty. Photo: Arthur Carron

Two of the country’s most senior Catholic bishops have warned parents their children’s communions and confirmations may have to be called off next year due to the continuing uncertainty caused by Covid-19.

It comes as many children around the country who were due to make their communions and confirmations this year have still been unable to do so.

In a letter to parishes, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, in charge of the country’s largest diocese, revealed that due to the ongoing threat of the virus, “all sacraments might have to be postponed until it is safe to proceed”.

He warned it may not be possible to complete the full 2021 schedule of sacraments until 2022.

Meanwhile, Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin has also written to parents and schools advising them not to set dates for sacramental ceremonies in 2021 in order to avoid “uncertainty and rescheduling”.

In his letter, Dr Nulty told parents he has not set dates for Confirmations in 2021 and he said he was “asking parishes not to decide dates for 2021 sacraments until well into the new year”.

“We must plan as realistically as possible for next year’s celebrations,” he said.

He proposed all first communions be celebrated from May and confirmations from June.

For families and parishes waiting to celebrate sacraments that should have taken place earlier this year, Dr Nulty said “given the current level of restrictions and the uncertainty around the virus I am asking all parishes to postpone any further rescheduling of these sacraments until February or March next”.

In his letter, Archbishop Martin acknowledged it was unfortunate parishes have not been able to complete their 2020 programme of sacraments and remain unsure about when it will be possible to do so. “It is not clear how the situation will unfold as we move into 2021, what level of restriction there will be, or how the level might fluctuate,” he wrote.

Dr Martin said priests want to provide as much clarity as possible to parents.

Setting out three possible scenarios for communions and confirmations in 2021, he said Dublin’s Sacraments Implementation Group had suggested that in a more favourable scenario, it might be possible to proceed in a similar way to 2020, optimising online engagement with families and holding small-scale ceremonies.

In a less favourable scenario, there might be limited windows of opportunity to safely complete the 2020 sacraments and begin the 2021 programme, which might not be completed in all cases until 2022.

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In an unfavourable scenario, all sacraments might have to be postponed until it is safe to proceed.

In a separate statement sent to priests and parishes at the beginning of the month, Dr Martin also said he was “very concerned” there are a number of parishes that have been proposing to hold first holy communion ceremonies for very large numbers of children, without the participation of parents.

“This would lead to gatherings of people outside churches and inevitably to a breakdown in social distancing on a very large scale” and put the health of families and the wider community “at high risk”, he warned.

He added: “My advice is not to hold first communion or confirmation ceremonies at this moment.”

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